Joshua Morey is excited about the future of the independent insurance agency channel. But for the second-generation agency owner, the values of the past inform the path forward.
For more than 40 years, the J. Morey Company has served Japanese American communities in Southern California. Under Joshua’s leadership, the company has acquired several other minority-owned agencies, and Joshua is dedicated to bringing these agencies into the future while maintaining the legacies they have in their communities. The agency’s digital innovations and commitment to their community helped J. Morey win the 2021 Agent for the Future Award for Outstanding Agency Overall, the highest honor an agency can earn as part of the award.
This commitment to respecting the past while creating future opportunities is key to how the agency approaches diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Joshua is a member of the Big I’s Diversity Council and has been a vocal advocate of DEI within the independent agency community.
We talked to Joshua Morey about what DEI means to him, the actions his agency is taking, and the future opportunities of DEI in the industry.
If you were to explain to other agency owners why diversity, equity and inclusion is important, what would you say? What does DEI mean to you?
DEI means something incredibly valuable to me. I come from a background in a Japanese-American community. My family had a great business leading up to WWII, and then everything was taken away when my family was sent to an internment camp during the war. So we had to restart.
As unfair as that is, it’s still an opportunity to create your own story. After the war, Japanese insurance agents had to rally together to get appointments with insurance carriers. They had to find allies and advocates within the industry who would go to bat for them and get them appointments.
I’ve seen how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go with DEI in the industry, and I want to be an advocate for minority-owned agencies and diverse communities. I want to help remove barriers to entry and create more opportunities so the generation that comes after me can truly fly.
So that’s the social aspect and my personal experience. But there’s also the economic side of it. If you care about the future of your business, continuing to grow your DEI initiatives is essential.
McKinsey did a study on companies that had been engaging in DEI efforts and those that had not. The report showed that companies that invested in DEI were more profitable than less diverse companies.
For me, the social aspect of DEI far outweighs the financial aspect of it. But as my agency has engaged more with DEI initiatives in the last two years, we’ve seen the financial benefits – the past two years have been our most profitable years yet.
What does DEI look like within your agency? What actions are you taking?
Being Asian American, the easiest way for us to engage with DEI is to continue creating opportunities and resources for the next generation of Asian Americans. But one of the things I’m excited about is helping create opportunities for other diverse communities. We’re partnering with agencies in African American and Latino communities to help bring in the next generation of insurance agents.
For us, what’s worked well is educating young people in college about the opportunities in insurance, giving them internships, potentially offering jobs when they graduate and providing pathways to grow in the industry. We see potential to use a similar model in other diverse communities, so we’re leaning on our partners to see how we can tailor this in ways that work in their communities.
Your agency has also acquired other minority-owned agencies and you’ve talked about how you’re committed to carrying on their legacies. Tell us more about what that looks like and what it means to you.
That means everything. I’m proud to have the opportunity to carry on other people’s legacies that might have otherwise ended with my generation. When I think about what I’ll be most proud of when I eventually retire from the industry in 20 or 30 years, it has nothing to do with money or recognition and everything to do with what I did to have a role in my community and carry forward that baton that has been passed to me.
The J. Morey Company has been in business for 42 years, and this year, we launched a parent organization called Ori-gen. The tagline is “Remember where you come from, create a new future.” That’s how we’re approaching legacy businesses – we want to honor where they come from. Each acquisition looks different because legacy means something different to each person. For some of them, it’s the name, for others it’s their commitment to the community they serve. Honoring those legacies is DEI work, because we’re working in minority communities.
What do you think is coming in the future for DEI in the insurance industry?
As the U.S. population gets more diverse, agencies that have strong relationships in minority communities will have more opportunities. For example, efforts to diversify the supply chain are going to bring some amazing opportunities for minority communities – and for agencies that work within those communities.
DEI has become a bigger focus in the business world, and agencies that invest in DEI initiatives will be better positioned for the future.
Beyond that, DEI is an important part of attracting the next generation of insurance agents. To Gen Z, the social goodness and deeper purpose of a company is equally important as how much the company pays.
What advice would you give to other agents to be an Agent for the Future?
For agencies to thrive in the future, they need to be flexible to change but deeply rooted in values. Agencies for the Future are innovative and digitally savvy, but also have a deeper mission and purpose that goes beyond insurance.
If you can be the best in insurance, but also communicate a story that differentiates you from everyone else in the marketplace, that will set you up to win and motivate people to want to join you.